Women driving campaign fizzles out

Updated 08 November 2013
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Women driving campaign fizzles out

The Oct. 26 campaign of Saudi women activists to drive fizzled out Saturday as the government's threat of arrests appeared to take effect.
Social media websites were abuzz with many bloggers encouraging women to get behind the wheel close to their homes to resuscitate the campaign.
Eyewitnesses said security was tight on the streets of Riyadh on Saturday. The traffic authorities did not register any case of women driving in the country's major cities despite a few short video clips of women driving in Riyadh and Al-Ahsa on YouTube and Twitter, apparently filmed on Oct. 26.
An unidentified woman in full niqab, who claimed she drove on Najah Street in Al-Ahsa on Saturday morning, said on her YouTube video while driving: “I'm going with my sisters on errands without having to wait for someone to drive us to Alamal Saloon.” As she prepared to stop at a traffic light, she said: “I have a driver’s license and I know how to handle it. There is no danger.”
One of the women, Mai Al-Sawyan, recorded herself driving unnoticed in Riyadh. “I went to the grocery shop near the house ... there was a reporter with me,” Al-Sawyan told the BBC. “I know of three other women who also drove." She hoped the government would soon lift the ban.
There was one official case of a woman driving in the industrial city of Yanbu. The woman, who appeared to be in her mid-twenties, was pulled over by traffic officers while driving her four-wheel-drive vehicle in Sumairi District in the morning. The officers called her father. The angry father said his daughter took the car while other members of the family were sleeping. The Yanbu Traffic Department is investigating the incident.
Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathlool, a French literature student at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said that the goal of the campaign was not necessarily to drive on Oct. 26, but to keep the momentum going. She thanked the women who took to the streets in their cars.
Activist Eman Al-Nafjan said that the Oct. 26 campaign was "only symbolic,” and set a new date of Nov. 31 even though November only has 30 days. “The campaign proved its point,” she said. Al-Nafjan was detained earlier this month for driving her car in Riyadh.
Activist Manal Al-Sharif, who started a similar campaign in 2011, called on the government to lift the ban. In 2011, Al-Sharif posted a video of her driving a car which resulted in her arrest and nine days imprisonment.
According to a report, more than 60 women claimed to have answered their call to get behind the wheel.
Aziza Youssef, Saudi professor and campaigner, said that the group received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven on Saturday. But she said they had no way of verifying the messages.
Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. However, he issued a warning on Thursday, saying that any attempt to drive and join mass protests would be taken seriously by the government.


Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented achievements one year after MBS became crown prince

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change. (SPA)
Updated 42 min 48 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented achievements one year after MBS became crown prince

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030
  • Vision 2030 seeks to make Saudi Arabia non-oil based economy and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and, NEOM, are part of the efforts to lure in investors and promote tourism sector.

JEDDAH: June 21 marked one year of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia.Since assuming the role, the crown prince, fondly known as MBS, has been working for the socioeconomic transformation of the Kingdom.
He is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its dependence on oil income.
Among the reforms envisaged in the Vision 2030 plan are the reopening of cinemas and allowing both sexes to attend concerts.
Another major development is the lifting of a ban on women driving. From June 24, women in Saudi Arabia will be able to take the wheel. The crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from the current 22 percent.
In a statement issued to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that as the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, the crown prince was inspiring the country’s youth and introducing structural changes to the Saudi economy and society.
Al-Othaimeen said that in one year he had taken many important initiatives at the national and international level and reinforced Saudi Arabia’s leading role in defending and supporting issues related to the wider Muslim world.
In this area, the OIC chief said, the most notable achievement was the creation of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.
Vision 2030 seeks to boost the Saudi non-oil based economy, and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and NEOM, the futuristic mega city, are part of efforts to attract investors and promote the Kingdom’s tourism sector.
Saudi Minister of Telecommunications and IT Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha said that the Kingdom is geared up to achieve the goals of socioeconomic transformation as envisaged in Vision 2030. He said that during the last year Saudi Arabia had achieved great success in this ambition.
Civil Services Minister Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan said that last year was characterized by many achievements. The Kingdom, he said, witnessed the continuation of the successful implementation of the crown prince’s Vision 2030, which covers all aspects of life.
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Issa said: “Our country is looking forward to a bright future in line with an ambitious vision. It is standing at the threshold of great transformation.”
Saudi Arabia has also witnessed several unprecedented developments since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began implementing his reform plans. In a bid to ensure transparency in the financial system to promote international investments, the Kingdom launched a drive to root out corruption from society without discrimination.
Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Waleed bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, who is also president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that the crown prince is a leader whose impact has surpassed local and regional levels. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures at the global level, he said.
Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Abdulatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ashiekh said: “The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is a comprehensive national development program that seeks to achieve prosperity for the country. The crown prince has worked very hard to achieve many goals in record time.
“The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has received a great deal of support and attention from the crown prince to help fight extremist and deviant ideologies.”
The minister said that these efforts come within the framework of Vision 2030 to eradicate all sources of corruption.
MBS’s history of philanthropic initiatives has earned him many awards. In 2011, he established the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk), which enables young Saudis to learn, develop and progress in the fields of business, literature, culture, science and technology, and sociology.
“The crown prince’s initiatives in relief and humanitarian work have been admired and praised by the UN and its related organizations,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) and an adviser to the royal court.
Al-Rabeeah said that the crown prince had allocated $66.7 million to fight the cholera epidemic in Yemen, in addition to his efforts to help the needy throughout the world without discrimination.
He said that the crown prince had worked hard to build a new phase of progress and prosperity for the country with the help of the youth who are the core of the Kingdom’s future.
In recent years, the crown prince has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change. In a country where about 60 percent of the population is under 30, the young crown prince is widely seen as an icon in the push toward socioeconomic reforms.
The crown prince also heads the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which aims to establish a seamless mechanism to achieve Vision 2030 goals.